Matt Braunger is the ultimate living-room comic. His live shows are like sitting around on a lazy afternoon cracking jokes, telling tales, and drinking beer.
Like his Chicago compatriots Kyle Kinane and T.J. Miller, he has a conversational storytelling style that deals in naturally humorous asides and observations, not predictable setups and punch lines, and his material, while not exactly politically aware or intellectually challenging, is highly endearing, the droll and snarky stuff of a streetwise everyman with a quick wit and some charisma to boot.
On his two live LPs, 2009's Soak up the Night (Comedy Central) and 2012's Shovel Fighter (Comedy Central), Braunger riffs on concepts that seem banal, but his idiosyncratic approach takes such hackneyed subjects as dating, partying, and working out and turns them into observations alternately personal, surreal, and surly.
His self-loathing gripes about painful hangovers turn playful on the Shovel Fighter track "Cheese Babies and a Hot Boy," an ode to the poor waiters who deal with incoherent drunks craving greasy grub the morning after a bender. "Comedian," Soak's opening track, details his frustrations with explaining his career choice to dubious relatives. ("I told my uncle I'm a comedian, and he reacted as if I told him I hunt and kill unicorns for their candylike meat.")
Braunger's real strength, though, is his long-form storytelling, which is demonstrated in the closing tracks on Shovel Fighter. "A Ghost at the Two Man Party" is as horrifying as it is hilarious, and "Clown Pub Crawl" is almost too crazy to be true. Both are legendary.